Published: 27th July 2020
Sherly Devarapalli conducts self-defense classes for girls in rural Telangana schools
Before launching Goodwill, Hyderabad-based Sherly Devarapalli worked with many NGOs like Be The Change and conducted self-defense sessions for them and gathered a lot of experience from there
After conducting a self-defense class in a remote village in Telangana, Sherly Devarapalli was returning to where she was staying when she noticed a girl from the class following her. Innocently, the little girl walked up to Sherly and almost whispered, "Could you teach me a few more self-defense techniques? My mother is being domestically abused and I want to go home and teach her these techniques." "I felt so emotional, I didn't know if I should smile because she approached me or cry because of what was happening at her house. But if there was one thing I was sure of that day, it was that I would continue to take these workshops even if it only helped one household," says 20-year-old Sherly who started taking these workshops when she was just 17. Having earned a black belt in karate when she was in class VIII, this Vijayawada-born youngster wanted to put it to good use, so she joined forces with her mother, Devamani Devarapalli and launched the Goodwin Charitable Trust in May 2019. Under this, Sherly conducts self-defense classes and focuses on government and rural schools. A journey that started with a class for 250 students at Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Kadapa has reached over 25 schools and impacted over 3,000 students till date.
Ongoing class | (Pic: Sherly Devarapalli)
A nine-minute short film about atrocities committed against women shot in Sherly's own hostel room on an iPhone; an animated short film on good touch, bad touch, what one has to do when one is being sexually or domestically abused; punches, kicks and other techniques like Stop, Go and Tell if one is being harassed — all this is a part of the 45-minute-long self-defense sessions that the UPSC aspirant conducts on her own. "What happens to us during our childhood stays with us. I don't want anything horrific to happen to girls, that's the whole reason behind ensuring that my workshops are full of helpful and valid information," says Sherly, an alumna of Narayana IAS Academy, Hyderabad.
With a kid | (Pic: Sherly Devarapalli)
Under one of Goodwin's other initiatives, NaShe, Sherly spreads menstrual awareness, talks about domestic abuse and makes her audience aware of must-know helplines like 1098 is child helpline number. Through a project called Digital Dream, she even helped digitise a government-aided school in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, where she was brought up, by conducting a drawing competition at Narayana IAS Academy, auctioning the top 20 works of art for a handsome `22,000 and helping the school with this money. Because of all the work Sherly has done for girls and students in general, this Ashoka Fellow has been awarded the Karmaveer Chakra Award, Global Achievers Award and Seva Ratna Puraskar. "I aspire to pursue an MA in Social Work from TISS, Mumbai and also want to take my foundation to the next level," shares Sherly.
What else has she been up to:
- Conducts talent hunts at orphanages
- Conducts I Am Aware sessions on personal hygiene along with self-defense techniques
- Hosts the Joy of Giving initiative in homes for the disabled and orphanages
- Has collected `15,000 and distributed 50 grocery kits to the needy during the lockdown
For more on her, check out facebook.com/sherly.devarapalli